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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Talk - The Family is Ordained of God

Here's a talk that I gave at church.  I changed some of the words when I actually spoke but this was the plan.  I believe in eternal families so I was grateful to have been given this topic to speak on.  My hubby also spoke about the Family Proclamation but since my talk when a little longer than expected he only had around 10 minutes (sorry honey!).  Here it is if you'd like to read it.

IMPORTANCE OF FAMILIES

Elder M. Russell Ballard shared an experience that happened around ten years ago.  He said, “Several of the Brethren and I recently visited a few of the refugee centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas where devastated and displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina were staying as they began to put their lives back together.  Their stories and situation are tragic and poignant in many ways, but in all that I heard, what touched me the most was the crying out for family: “Where is my mother?” “I can’t find my son.” “I’ve lost a sister.” These were hungry, frightened people who had lost everything and needed food, medical attention, and help of all kinds, but what they wanted and needed most was their families.”

“Crisis or transition of any kind reminds us of what matters most.  In the routine of life, we often take our families – our parents and children and siblings – for granted.  But in times of danger and need and change, there is no question that what we care about most is our families! It will be even more so when we leave this life and enter into the spirit world.  Surely the first people we will seek to find there will be father, mother, spouse, children, and siblings” (Ballard).

I am grateful to be able to speak about one of my favorite topics today – the family.

Over a decade ago, when we lived in California, our family decided to seriously study the document called The Family: A Proclamation to the World, also commonly referred to as the Family Proclamation. Although our kids were pretty young we decided to try to memorize it. We read it at home, we recited parts of it while in the car, we studied it at family night, we made up little rap rhythms to remember hard lines.  I can’t say we all memorized it but the phrases have stuck in our minds. When church leaders quote it, which is way more often than you might realize, we immediately recognize where the various phrases come from.  We love and know the truths in this proclamation.

In the Family Proclamation it reads: “In the pre-mortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which his children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.  Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”
In that simple paragraph lies profound and eternal truth.  We are children of God.  We lived with heavenly parents in a heavenly family before we were born.  Heavenly Father has organized us into families here on earth and has made it possible for these family relationships can last beyond this life.  The family is truly ordained of God and designed to be an eternal union.

Our Father has a family. It’s me!
It’s you, all others too: we are His children.
He sent each one of us to earth, through birth,
To live and learn here in fam’lies.
God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be—
This is how He shares His love, for the fam’ly is of God.


When the Family Proclamation was published in 1995, over 20 years ago, it seemed like the church leaders were just stating the obvious.  I remember thinking it was a “no duh” in my mind.  Little did I know how truly important this document would be.  The family proclamation is indeed a prophetic document.  It is prophetic for the obvious reason that it was issued by prophets. It was issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  It is prophetic because it warned us of threats to come that we couldn’t even imagine would exist. The proclamation is clear.  It uses simple language. It “stands in stark contrast to the confused and convoluted notions of a society that cannot even agree on a definition of family, let alone supply the help and support  parents and families need” (Elder Ballard).

Elder Ballard gave a talk entitled “What Matter Most is What Lasts the Longest” during the 10 year anniversary of the family proclamation.  He said it was a “clarion call to protect and strengthen families and a stern warning in a world where declining values and misplaced priorities threaten to destroy society by undermining its basic unit.” Elder Ballard said, “the family is the basic unit of society, of the economy, of our culture, and of our government. And as Latter-day Saints know, the family will also be the basic unit in the celestial kingdom.”

The family proclamation was and is a call for us to put family as a priority so that we can “survive in an environment that seems ever more toxic to traditional marriage and to parent-child relationships” (Elder Ballard).

CHALLENGES TO FAMILIES

President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “The family is one of God’s greatest fortresses against the evils of our day. Help keep your family strong and close and worthy of our Father in Heaven’s blessings.”
It makes sense that if the family is a great fortress against evil that the adversary would do everything in his power to try to destroy it.

In the Book of Mormon we read of Amalikiah.  He was a wicked man who promised the Nephites many things if they would make him the king.  Many people believed him and turned away from righteousness.

Moroni was the captain over the Nephite armies. He was righteous and believed in Jesus Christ.  When Moroni heard that many people were being led away by Amalickiah, Moroni became angry with him.  He knew the people were in danger of losing their freedom.  Moroni tore off a piece off his coat and wrote on it, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children” (Alma 46:12).  He fastened this fabric to the end of a pole and called it the Title of Liberty.  Then he prayed for the people and visited them, waving the Title of Liberty, and calling on the Nephites to join him in protecting their freedom (Alma 46:1-21).

We live in a day when there are people like Amalickiah who want to lead us away from following Heavenly Father’s plan.  And as I’ve been talking about, one of the most important parts of that plan is the family.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World declares what we believe about families.  It is like the Title of Liberty of olden days (see “We Believe the Family is Ordained of God” by Cheryl Esplin).
Satan hates families.  In fact, he wants to destroy them.  We can see this happening all around us on a personal and a global level.  What we can do to help preserve our marriages and families while they are under attack from all sides?

It is so clear to me that the adversary is pulling out all the stops and trying his hardest to destroy marriages.  Contention, addiction, distraction, selfishness, anger, sin and so many other factors are things we need to fight against.  No marriage or family is immune to problems.

Yesterday I saw a video on the Mormon Channel that had Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaking on it. In the video it shows a husband who had been in a terrible accident and was rushed to the hospital.  The medical staff tried to save him and the wife offered love and support.  Elder Oaks says, “A marriage, like a human life, is a precious living thing. If our bodies are sick we seek to heal them.  We do not give up.  Where there is any prospect of life we seek healing again and again.  The weakening of the concept that marriages are permanent and precious has far reaching consequences.  I speak out of concern but with hope. The same should be true of our marriages and if we seek him the Lord will help us and heal us.  Plead for the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord to forgive wrongs, to overcome faults, and to strengthen relationships.”

In my own life I have seen marriages that have become sick and needed healing.  I’ve seen marriages that most would consider to be terminal be saved and then made stronger than I thought possible.  All things are possible with Heavenly Father’s help.

Years ago I read a lesson in the Ensign called, “Lesson from aMilk Jug.”

In the story, a sister says:

Life was starting to look better. Although the last few months had involved severe illness for our newborn baby, a bout with postpartum depression for me, and a sudden layoff for my husband, it seemed that our family was going to make it through the wave of trials we had encountered.

But that soon changed when I returned home from helping an ill sister in our ward to find my husband engrossed in filth on the Internet. I had returned earlier than he had expected, and he was caught off guard. I learned that this had been going on for years and that it had been accompanied by other serious sins.

I was devastated. The man I had kept myself clean and pure for all of my life had not done the same for me. My heart was broken.

I was empty. I was hurt. I was angry. When my husband went to the bishop and the stake president to begin the repentance process, I was embarrassed.

And then I became numb.

As a matter of routine, I continued to read scriptures with my children and by myself. I continued to have family prayer and family home evening and to say my personal prayers. But they were nothing more than habitual. There was nothing left inside me.

After a while, I became tired of being numb. I wanted to feel again. I wanted to be strong for my children. I wanted to love my husband. I wanted to forgive. I just didn’t know how. All the Relief Society and Sunday School lessons on forgiveness had not prepared me for this pain, and I didn’t know how to overcome it. But I was determined that I would.

Time went by, and despite my desire to forgive, I was still bitter. Then the simplest thing happened.

I was unloading the car after a trip to the grocery store, and our three-year-old daughter was helping. She was carrying in loaves of bread and cartons of eggs and was doing just fine. Then she decided that she was going to carry in a gallon of milk. After some struggle, she pulled it out of the car, and it landed with a thud on the driveway. She gripped the handle with both hands and heaved it. It barely budged. I offered to help, and she snapped at me: “No! I do it myself!” She strained and grunted but made no progress in lifting the milk. After several minutes she looked up at me with tears welling in her eyes and said, “Too heavy. Can’t do it.”

As I looked at my sweet, stubborn little girl, I saw in an instant what Heavenly Father must see in me—a well-meaning but stubborn child who wouldn’t accept His help. A scripture I had learned in seminary came to my mind:

“Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.

“Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me;

“And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost” (D&C 50:40–42).

The significance of this is obvious, but the lesson became even more profound when my daughter’s eyes brightened and she said, “Mommy, you carry me; then I carry milk.” I scooped my little messenger up in my arms. I carried her, and leaning the jug against my arm, she carried the milk. In tears, I deposited my precious cargo inside.

Later, on my knees, I admitted to the Lord that my “jug of milk” was too heavy and that I had been proud in trying to carry it on my own. I asked forgiveness for my anger, my stubbornness, and my pride. I begged the Lord to carry me. I knew I was the one who needed to forgive, but the burden was too painful and too heavy. If the Lord would carry me, though, I could do what I needed to do. I begged Him to lift me, and He did. He helped me not only carry my burden but also cast it away.

Our trials have not all ended, but with Heavenly Father’s help, we will make it.

Like this sister in the story, we all have our own challenges and trials in our lives, and in our marriages and families.

Perhaps your “jug of milk” is a struggling spouse.  A wayward child.  Or perhaps your own weaknesses or addictions. No matter what our burden, the Lord can carry us through and lift us up.
So what can we do to preserve and strengthen our families and marriages in a world that is pulling so hard in opposite directions?

Put family first.  Pray about what you can specifically do to strengthen your own family.  Have the desire to make the changes necessary for you and your family to live in the celestial kingdom someday.  If you are doing something that is hindering your spiritual progress and damaging our marriage or family, stop it. If you are NOT doing things you should be doing, start doing them.  This will take some thoughtful introspection as individuals and families.

Be consistent in holding daily family prayer and weekly family home evenings.  Both of these invite the Lord’s Spirit, which provides the help and power we need as parents and family leaders.  I love the quote by John H. Groberg that says, “There is great power in loving, consistent, fervent family prayer.  Don’t deny your families this blessing.  Don’t allow the strength that comes through family prayer to slip away from you and your loved ones through neglect.”  So much evil surrounds our children (and us). If we think about it, can we imagine sending them off into the world without first asking for the Lord’s protection and then at the end of the day kneeling together? (Neil L. Andersen)

Teach the gospel and basic values in your home.  Establish a love for reading the scriptures together.  Too many parents are giving this responsibility to the Church.  While seminary, auxiliaries and priesthood quorums are important as supplemental to parental gospel instruction, the main responsibility rests at home.  Be wise and do not involve your children or yourselves in so many activities out of the home that you are so busy that the Spirit of the Lord cannot be recognized or felt in giving you the promised guidance for yourself and your family.

As a society we now are having some big challenges.  Ezra Taft Benson said that some people asked him as a Church leader why so much emphasis was placed on the home and family when there were so many larger problems around them.  His answer?  “The larger problems are merely a reflection of individual and family problems…. No nation ever rises above its homes.  This Church will never rise above its homes.  We are no better as a people than are our… homes.  The good home is the rock foundation, the cornerstone of civilization.  It must be preserved.  It must be strengthened.”

Sister Oscarson said: “Everyone, no matter what their marital circumstance or number of children, can be defenders of the Lord’s plan described in the family proclamation.  If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!” 

Earlier I compared the Family Proclamation to Moroni’s Title of Liberty. We need to hold fast to this great proclamation. We need to commit ourselves to live by its precepts.  We are ALL part of a family and proclamation applies to everyone (Ballard).


My challenge to you today is to try to figure out something you can do to strengthen your family and then act on that. 

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